Audio News for September 20th to September 26th
Welcome to the Audio News from Archaeologica! I’m Laura Kelley and these are the headlines in archaeological and historical news from September 20th to September 26th.
Evidence of Self-Destruction at Incan Site
Our first story is from Peru where an Australian team has found evidence that Incan pilgrims smashed and burned their own temple, and a tower containing a golden statue of a king, rather than letting them fall into Spanish hands. Ian Farrington from the Australian National University is excavating the temple site in Peru called Pambokancha, which is 20 miles from the Incan capital of Cusco. The site had religious significance, and local villagers still use the hill behind it to celebrate the festival of Santa Barbara on 4 December, the same date used from Incan times. Farrington stated that the site was unusual because it suffered damage only at the hands of the Incas. Nearby villagers had taken stones, but the site was never looted. The Incas literally closed the placed down," said Farrington. Incas systematically smashed pottery and burnt offerings as part of closing ceremonies held before they left the area ahead of the Spaniards' arrival. Archaeologists had found other sites that had closing ceremonies, but this was the most extensive, with 70 to 80 buildings containing evidence. The team found pottery from all over the empire in a state of remarkable preservation. The pottery was from as far north as Ecuador and as far south as Argentina. They also found lapis lazuli, gold and silver. Also found were carbonized organic remains, including whalebone and sharks' teeth, indicating they had been cooked. Farrington said it was strange to find the remains of Pacific marine animals at the site, which is high in the Andes Mountains. The distribution and range of the objects indicated the place was a site of pilgrimage and may have been the site of a royal palace. Farrington said the architecture at the site included a 40-foot tower that documents say once housed a golden statue of the king. Farrington said the architecture broke all the patterns they knew of. There were curved walls, and buildings built in step-fret style, with triangular shapes set at right angles. The unusual buildings were a sign of power and authority. No ordinary houses or domestic remains have been found at the site.
In Bulgaria, more major finds were revealed this week. Near the city of Shipka, a Bulgarian team discovered a bronze head of a Thracian ruler. Team leader Georgi Kitov stated at first it was reported that the head might be of a bronze Zeus statue, but that information was later refuted. The bronze head is the second major finding of the expedition. It was found under a stone in a highland mound, just a few meters away from the place where a ring and a gold mask weighing half a kilo and made of pure gold were unearthed in August. The unique mask is believed to have belonged to the first recorded Odrissi tribe's ruler Teres. Also uncovered this week is an ancient sanctuary thought to be one of the oldest temples in the world. The temple dates back to the beginning of 5th century BC. Kitov also explained his expedition dug a corridor, which proved that the sanctuary had been set on fire. The archaeologists think that the corridor will take them to the inner part of the temple. The Thracian sanctuary was found in the same mound with the bronze head depicting a Thracian king. Several meters away, archeologists partially revealed the 7-meter facade wall and the stone-built facility. Excavations on the site will go on at full speed in the coming days.
Proof of Ancient Alcoholic Consumption….From Mummy Hair?
New forsensic research has revealed the first direct evidence of alcohol consumption in ancient populations through mummy hair. The study, still in its preliminary stage, examined hair samples from spontaneously mummified remains discovered in one of the most arid regions of the world, the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and southern Peru. The research was presented at the 5th World Congress on Mummy Studies in Turin, Italy, this month. According to Larry Cartmell, Clinical Laboratory Director at the Valley View Hospital in Aida, Oklahoma, "It is well known that immediately following ingestion, ethanol can be measured in any body fluid, as well as the expired air in our breath. Detecting exposure to alcohol days, months, or even years later is a more difficult task. You need to find direct, long-term biomarks," The researchers decided to look into mummy hair following previous success in demonstrating cocaine and nicotine traces in the hair of other Andean mummies. The researchers tested seven hair samples, taken from five males and two females of various ages ranging from 15 to 50. Belonging to the Maibas Chiribaya culture, the mummies were farmers who lived between AD 1000 and 1250. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry showed that three out of the seven tested samples had measurable levels of fatty acid ethyl esters in both male and female subjects. Cartmell said, "In modern human hair the levels would generally be in the ranges of social drinking, but we obviously don't know how much, if any, was lost in 1,000 years of burial. Basically, we can say that for the first time we have direct markers of alcohol use in ancient populations." The nature of the drink is unknown, but the test indicates that alcohol was consumed. The discovery of these alcohol markers will make it possible to find direct evidence of fermented drink consumption in other mummies. In the past, there was only speculation about patterns of alcohol use and when alcohol was introduced in a widespread manner. Researchers are pretty sure, however, that the mummies of the Atacama Desert drank a cloudy beer called chica. The favored, and most likely the only fermented, beverage of that region, chica was generally made from maize and played an important role in the Andean culture.
Largest Ancient Ink Slab Found in Vietnam
Our final story is from Vietnam, where a giant ancient ink slab, which was mistaken for a royal wash-basin, has been found in central Thanh Hoa province. Ink slabs were used to produce and contain ink used in calligraphy. This slab, the largest seen so far, is carved out of a single monolithic ash-gray stone in the shape of a peach, and is 51cm high and 95 cm wide at its widest point. On the surface are three peach-shaped hollows with a big one in the center, 33 cm deep, and two smaller holes, each of which has a diameter of 18 cm and an inside depth of 10cm. There is no decoration on the stone slab, which has a three-legged pedestal. Archaeologist Pham Tan in Thanh Hoa province said this slab dated back to the Le Trung Hung dynasty (the 16th-17th centuries) and would have been used as a symbol at big examinations held in the Van Lai-Thien Truong capital during the fighting between the Le and Mac dynasties. This slab previously belonged to a local farmer who inherited it from his grandfather - a canton chief who had kept it for over 100 years. The current owner, Tran Trieu Nguyet, in Thanh Hoa city, bought it accidentally and found out about the ink slab's value only recently.
That wraps up the news for this week!
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I’m Laura Kelley and I’ll see you next week!